[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 226
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Fenris ♂, Anders ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂,
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D1)
Warnings: Strong non-explicit implications of past abuse, Fenris has issues
Notes: It’s whiskey-serious and it’s before noon. Fenris has a favour to ask.
In asking a favour like this, Fenris decided, it would be best if he offered something in return. He knew Anders’s relationship to memory wasn’t as tempestuous as his own, but he wasn’t sure Anders was actually better for remembering any of what happened to him. And that, Fenris thought, was the root of the problem — that suddenly, he found himself worse for not knowing, when all this time he could simply put aside what had come before, because it didn’t exist, but now it mattered.
He set the bottle of whiskey on the corner of a cabinet, in the clinic, and leaned against the wall, beside it, as Anders finished up with the last few patients.
"Heatstroke and broken bones," Anders said, finally turning around, shaking out his hands, as sweat trickled down his face and sunk into his collar. "The joys of summer come early, this year." The bottle caught his eye, as he tried to rub the feeling back into his fingertips. "It’s a whiskey kind of serious, is it?" he asked, at last, still not quite looking at Fenris.
"What gave it away?" Fenris drawled. Again, he was struck by how well this mage knew him in spite of all the years they’d spent at each other’s throats.
Anders motioned for Fenris to sit, as though he were welcoming the elf into his lounge instead of pointing him towards a cot. It was a clean cot, at least, and Fenris abandoned the wall to sink onto it.
"A whiskey kind of serious, and you’re awake before noon?" Anders said, plucking the bottle off the cabinet and turning it over in his hands. He squinted up at the windows to make sure that it was before noon. "Now I’m almost worried. Has someone died?"
"No," said Fenris. He paused to think about that. "Well, yes. Danarius died, but you were there for that."
Finally, Anders looked at Fenris, giving the elf a long, measuring look. "And… does Danarius’s death have something to do with why you’re in my clinic, bearing whiskey?"
Fenris’s toes scuffed the floor. "Less his death and more his life, but yes."
Anders handed the bottle to Fenris and turned to grab a pair of clean beakers off a shelf. "Open the bottle. We’re not having this conversation without a drink."
Nodding, Fenris cracked the seal and worked out the stopper, pouring for Anders, first. He suspected he shouldn’t have been surprised by that response, but it never ceased to throw him off when someone considered his health or well-being, beyond whether he could swing a sword. "I have come into some papers," he said, setting the bottle between his feet after pouring his own drink, to get the papers from where he’d tucked them under his armour. "They bore unexpected news, in more than one way, and I simply do not have the recollections to trust or dispute what I see."
"And this has to do with Danarius?" Anders asked, confusion tightening his brow, as he held out a hand.
"This has everything to do with Danarius." Fenris tapped the paper on top of the stack, as he put the pages into Anders’s hand. "The third line."
"… born in the city of Minrathous, on this day, blah blah… wait, what?" Anders blinked at the page and raised his eyes to Fenris’s. "Seriously? That’s not… You’re an elf. Like, a very elfy elf. I mean, to look at, anyway."
Fenris scoffed into his drink, the beaker distorting the sound. "And Varric had just assured me that I was unelfy for an elf." His smile looked more like a grimace. "There is a possibility that Danarius was elf-blooded, which would make this far more likely."
‘Possibility’. ‘Likely’. As though it weren’t written in ink before his eyes. The next drink Fenris took was long and deep.
"Shit," Anders breathed, which, Fenris thought, summed it up rather well. "When did you find out about this?" He looked over the papers again, as though expecting them to say something different this time.
"Last night. I am… I am still… processing, I suppose." Fenris didn’t realise he’d started tugging at his ear again. "There is a shroud over my memories. Sometimes it slips, and I catch a glimmer of something. Sometimes I simply get caught in it." He struggled for a moment, searching for the words. "Is there a way to see beyond it, do you think? Could you — would you — help me?"
"If it’s already wearing thin, we can probably get past it. The question, really, is whether that’s something you actually want," Anders said, sighing as he hiked himself up onto the corner of the cupboard. "Even if we can get it back, you may never be able to get rid of it, again. Look at me. I remember everything. Well, no, most things. Then there were the things I got drunk for, because I didn’t want to remember them. But, look at yourself, Fenris. Ask yourself if you can survive what you find. Because you’re probably not going to get to pick what comes back first, or what order it comes back in, or how fast."
"It is only memory. It has already passed, and I have survived it. Why would I not survive the memory of something that obviously didn’t kill me?" Fenris scoffed, taking a swig of the whiskey.
"That sick feeling I can see around the corners of your eyes? Every day, for the rest of your life. Until it sucks the taste out of your food and the joy out of being touched. Can you handle that? Can you make it back from that?" Anders asked, eyes not nearly as soft as they’d been. "I’ll help you. I’m sure Artemis will, too. You won’t be alone, but this …" He laughed, bitterly. "Do you know how many times I’ve envied you? I wish I could make it all go away. But, I can’t. But, if you want it — if you’re sure you want it — I’ll help you."
"Envied me?" Fenris scoffed, one ear canting out. "I am not someone who should be envied." Which was, perhaps, missing the point, but Anders’s words had a way of nettling him. Or maybe he was just looking for a reason to be nettled. Long fingers drummed along the beaker in his hands as he considered — truly considered — Anders’s words. Did he truly want this? He had a home, a husband, and he was free. Did his life before truly matter so much when his present was as good as it was?
As much as Fenris tried to talk himself out of it, however, that itch was there in the back of his mind, that driving need to know. "I need to try," he said at length, "or I will always wonder."
For a long moment, Anders watched him, looking for doubt, for a hint that Fenris was anything less than certain. He sucked in a breath. "I can’t guarantee anything," he said, setting his whiskey down next to him. "I’m not even sure what, exactly, Danarius did to you, but I will do my best."
"I always thought it was the pain," Fenris said, running his thumb around the top of the beaker. "I always thought I forgot because of the pain. But, the numbers don’t make sense. There are years missing on the wrong side. I’m older than I thought I was. Not that I gave it much thought, but… remembering so little, I expected to be younger. Somehow he left me the pain, even when he took everything else. It looks like this wasn’t the first time I ran, even if it is the only time I made it this far. Who did I know? Did anyone want to see my face again? To hear him talk, he would have been the only one. If there is something worse than I remember already, I will be extremely surprised."
"Shit," Anders sighed, pouring whiskey down his throat, before he spoke again. "If this wasn’t an accident, if this was some kind of magic… I’ll do some reading, see what he might have done. It’s going to be hard, here. We’re talking about things that have been outlawed for centuries. But, let’s try something simple. Something that’s not going to be difficult or involve any magic." Anders shifted forward, off the edge of the cupboard and sank to the floor, to sit. "I had a friend who thought he had no good memories of his childhood home, so I made him start telling stories, and I gave him more and more … was it even whiskey? Might have been brandy. But, we got very drunk, and he remembered some very funny things. So… tell me a story. I promise to carry you home if you get too drunk to stand up."
A quiet chuckle shook Fenris’s shoulders. That would almost be worth it for the look on Artemis’s face. But the smile died on Fenris’s lips as he tried to think of where to begin. Most of the memories he had from back then were of Danarius, and he didn’t want to go poking at those unless he had to. But there were other memories in there, images, sounds, smells that peered through tears in the shroud.
There was Varania as a little girl, red-haired wisps working their way free of the plait down her back. In the summer, freckles dusted her cheeks and shoulders, and Fenris couldn’t remember if she still had them. He kept telling himself he didn’t want to think about her, but that image was startlingly clear. It was a place to start, a better place than Danarius, at least, if barely.
Anders waited patiently, nursing his whiskey. Eventually Fenris unstuck his tongue from the roof of his mouth and started to speak. "There was a tree," he said, "in our… in Danarius’s courtyard. An olive tree. Varania and I used to climb it. It was this old, knotted thing with silver leaves." He could see it as he spoke, the greyed, sun-dappled bark rough under his fingertips. He had forgotten about that tree. Years later, it was dead and rotting, and Danarius had it removed. There was a sapling in its place now. "Varania got her hair caught in the branches once and wouldn’t stop crying. Mater was so cross when…"
Fenris trailed off. Mater. Mother. She was little more than a smudge of colour in his memory, but she was there.
"What do you see?" Anders asked, quietly, pouring more whiskey for Fenris.
"More red. She wore brown and green. I can’t remember her face. She wore her hair up, and I can see the little copper catches and the leather, but I can’t see her face." Fenris sounded frustrated, now.
"Take a drink. Don’t worry about what you don’t see. Tell me what you do. Tell me what you smell, what you feel, what you hear… anything you remember." Anders sipped his own whiskey, eyes on Fenris’s hands.
A long swallow of whiskey chased the ragged edges of frustration back. What did he remember? Brown. They wore brown and cream and green, mostly. A coarse fabric. The smell of summer — the air full of the scent of earth and broken leaves, wet stone and cheese being made. "My hands weren’t so grey. These lines weren’t there. I was darker than they were, but browned, not… this." He looked at his hand. "I look like I died, now. No wonder she looked at me like that."
"What else do you remember about yourself?" Anders asked, as Fenris drifted off into some memory, smiling.
"She— my sister — used to tie flowers in my hair, when I wasn’t looking. My hair was longer, then. Longer than yours, I think, but I don’t know. Dark. Maybe black? Something changed. I looked real, once. I looked like any other child. But I didn’t look like my sister or my mother? That can’t be right. But we all had the same eyes." The rest of the whiskey went into his mouth in a hurry, and he held out the beaker for more. Those eyes. Danarius had said something about his eyes. ‘Just like your mother’s.’ And something happened, there. Something wrong. Something horrible that he couldn’t fit his mind around, and for a moment, the entire world shrunk down to a tiny circle between his feet.
"Fenris?" Anders’s voice came as though from a distance.
Fenris blinked and remembered to breathe, though his lungs felt half the size they should be. And there was another memory, gasping for breath. The clink of chains and the bite of metal against his throat, chafing at his wrists. Danarius’s serrated smile.
"Fenris." Anders’s voice was stronger now, though no less kind. "Look at me. Look around you. Remember where you are."
Brown eyes were steady on his when Fenris looked up. Anders. The clinic. A hand brushing his throat told him there was no collar there, no heavy chains. Just the silver chain of a necklace, which Fenris pulled out from under his tunic. What was left of Danarius glinted in the dim light, and Anders could see the fine tremble in his hands. Anders was hesitant to ask what he was seeing then.
Fenris opened his mouth as though to say something. Instead he just downed more whiskey. Without a word, Anders filled the beaker again. Soon Fenris wouldn’t be able to feel his hands, let alone realise they were shaking.
After another couple of hours, they’d run out of both the whiskey Fenris had brought and the whiskey Anders kept in the back room, and Fenris could barely remember what day it was, never mind what he might or might not have been doing in a courtyard in the Imperium twenty years ago. Which was, he suspected, for the best, really. Anders had warned him, and he just… now he got it.
He also suddenly got the appeal of being carried around like a sack of onions, which had never really sunk in, since nobody really … carried him around, at least not in a non-threatening way. But, Anders was quite large, really, and terribly gentle about the carrying, and Fenris appreciated that quite a bit, if only because he had absolutely no idea if he could navigate Darktown with as much booze in him as he’d swallowed. Wine, he told himself again. Whiskey tended to end in foolishness and vomit, and this was definitely foolishness.
Anders had drunk a great deal less than Fenris, entirely intentionally, though he was still a bit jolly with it, to Justice’s lasting dismay. He forced a door open with his back, and spun out onto some alley in Hightown, with Fenris curled up against his chest. It was, he decided, best to make this exactly the drunken stumble it was, before the neighbours decided to take rumour into their own hands. As he staggered out of the alley, looking a good bit drunker than he was, Anders began to sing, as he made his way toward Artemis’s place. "Oh, as I went home on Monday night, as drunk as drunk could be!"
Fenris didn’t quite know all the words, but he hummed along as best he could, sloppily conducting with the arm not crushed to Anders’s chest. Feathers tickled his ear and made it twitch.
Anders’s questionable singing reached a crescendo as he approached Château de Fartemis, arms full of elf with no hand free to knock. He opted to used his head — literally — and knocked his head against the door in time to his bellowed words: "AH, YOU’RE DRUNK, YOU’RE DRUNK, YOU SILLY OLD FOOL, SO DRUNK YOU CANNOT SEE!"
This sent Fenris into a fit of giggles, and Orana opened the door on a singing Anders cradling a cackling Fenris. She ducked her head and bit her cheek against a snicker of her own. This certainly wasn’t the oddest thing she’d seen since she’d started working for Fenris, even if it was barely past noon.
"Good afternoon, messeres," she said. "One moment." She turned and called into the house, "Messere Artemis! There’s a delivery for you!"
Anders had started on another verse by the time Artemis appeared in the doorway. Artie cocked his head at the sight. "Well, this seems backwards," he said. "Usually I’m the drunken and drooling idiot being dropped off at the door. Anders, what did you do to my husband?" Despite his light tone, there was concern in his eyes his smile didn’t quite reach.
"Why, I poured him full of the bottle of whiskey he brought to my door!" Anders grinned cheerfully, and then his eyes cleared and focused on Artemis. "He’s actually this drunk. I’m not. Just didn’t want to incite the neighbours to rumour. A drunken stumble is a lot less ugly than a lot of what they could’ve been thinking."
Fenris purred, rubbing his cheek against the feathers on Anders’s shoulder as he stretched a hand out to stroke Artemis’s cheek.
"He’s also heavier than he looks. Where would you like me to put your drunken husband?" Anders asked, trying to stretch his shoulders without dropping Fenris.
Artemis pressed a kiss to Fenris’s palm before pulling away. "The lounge couch is fine," he said, stepping back and holding the door open for the ridiculous pair. "You know where it is." As Anders shouldered past, Artemis reminded Fenris, "I’m supposed to be the drunkard, you know."